Friday, February 26, 2016

Chocolate Dipped Birthday Cupcakes

Cupcakes, chocolate dip, marshmallow frosting, and sprinkles? That can only mean one's a birthday kind of day! Every February 26, I bake and post a special batch of cupcakes, just for a special set of twins. My little cousins, Valentina and Federico, are officially four years old today! And what better way to celebrate such a momentous birthday than with a batch of Chocolate Dipped Birthday Cupcakes?

I've made chocolate pudding-filled cupcakes, mini vanilla birthday cupcakes, and classic vanilla cupcakes topped with Nutella frosting, but this year, my sister suggested that I give hi-hat cupcakes a try. I loved the idea from the beginning, mainly because I had never actually attempted to make them myself (a hi hat cupcake, in case you're not familiar, is a cupcake topped with a towering spiral of marshmallow frosting that gets dipped in a thin chocolate coating). I'd wanted to make hi hats for a long time and never got around to it, so with the twins' birthday coming up it was the perfect occasion. There was just one small (literally) detail that gave me pause.

My freezer. 

The keys to making successful hi hat cupcakes involve having stiff marshmallow frosting and making sure it's been well-chilled (otherwise it'll fall off the cupcake when you dip it in the chocolate coating). Freezing the frosted cupcakes is obviously a much better, faster way to ensure that the frosting is as chilled as it needs to be, but I was almost positive that there was no way my new, tiny NYC-sized freezer could handle such a task. It was stuffed to the brim with food (I promise, I'm not complaining about this), but it was a problem if I wanted to make hi hat cupcakes. So, the week leading up to the actual day I was going to make the cupcakes, I tackled my freezer and cooked as much of my frozen food as possible. That, combined with some expert Tetris-like rearranging, left me with just enough room to fit a half sheet pan to hold all the cupcakes. With that logistical situation taken care of, the rest was a breeze!

I prepared my favorite batch of chocolate cupcakes and let them cool completely. I then whipped up an enormous batch of marshmallow frosting and piped it on top of the cupcakes. Learn from me and don't do what I did: do not make a double batch of marshmallow frosting at once. You'll have a very hard time beating it enough to get it to form stiff peaks; after more than 25 minutes of beating and two very stiff arms later, my frosting was just barely forming stiff-ish peaks, which is why I wasn't able to get a beautiful, tall spiral of frosting. I suggest making the frosting in two batches (I give the quantities for the double batch below, so just divide everything in two when making the frosting). Though my frosting my have fallen a bit flat, I knew that it would still taste great under a thin coating of chocolate so I carried on. After about 40 minutes in my re-arranged freezer, they got dipped in chocolate. I used a lot of chocolate to coat these, but you really do need an excess of chocolate to be able to fully dip the cupcakes. And yes, you do need to add the vegetable oil to the chocolate when melting it, otherwise it won't melt smoothly. Birthday cupcakes aren't complete without colorful sprinkles, so after dipping and sprinkling, they went into the fridge to set. 

So while my cupcakes didn't really turn out to be the spectacular hi hat cupcakes I had been hoping for, I still think they ended up being really adorable. More importantly though, they were delicious. Marshmallow frosting is the perfect kid-friendly frosting, and the chocolate dip and sprinkles make these cupcakes just so much fun. They're perfect for birthdays, and since they have to stay in the fridge, you can make them in advance and not have to worry about them at all. Even though they're not true hi hats (hence why I'm calling them "chocolate dipped birthday cupcakes"), they'll still be the star of any birthday party. There's always Valentina and Federico's 5th birthday next year for me to nail the hi hat cupcake! Feliz CumpleaƱos Vale y Fede!!! 

Chocolate Dipped Birthday Cupcakes
frosting recipe from Martha Stewart


2 dozen chocolate cupcakes

For the Frosting

3 1/2 cups sugar, divided
6 large egg whites, divided
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, divided
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract, divided

For the Chocolate Coating 

24 ounces mini chocolate chips
6 tablespoons vegetable oil


To decorate the cupcakes, begin by preparing the frosting. You'll be preparing a lot of this marshmallow frosting, so I recommend mixing up the frosting in two batches. 

In a large heatproof bowl, combine 1 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, 3 egg whites, and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. With a handheld mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Continue to beat on high speed until the frosting forms stiff peaks, about 12-14 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat on high speed for two more minutes. 

Transfer the frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain pastry tip (I used an 807 Ateco tip). Pipe a large spiral cone of frosting onto 12 cupcakes. Transfer the cupcakes to the freezer. Make a second batch of frosting using the remaining ingredients in the same way, pipe it on the remaining cupcakes, and transfer to the freezer. Leave the cupcakes in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or until the frosting is hardened. 

To make the chocolate coating, combine the mini chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate mixture in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until the chocolate has melted and is smooth and glossy. Let the chocolate cool for about 10 minutes.

To dip the cupcakes, quickly invert the each one into the melted chocolate and then allow the excess chocolate to drip off. Decorate with a colored sprinkles, then transfer the cupcake to the refrigerator. Work quickly and in batches to coat and decorate the remaining cupcakes (I took 4 cupcakes out of the freezer to work with at a time, returned them once dipped, and then took out another 4 cupcakes to ensure the frosting stayed chilled). Keep the cupcakes in the refrigerator until you plan on serving them.    

Makes enough frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes

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